Monday, June 27, 2011

Pheaturing Dax Norman

Hello, welcome to another entry of the Phile, the second for this week. What the hell, right? Man, I don't know about where you live, but here in Central Florida it's hot. It's so hot, they are landing planes in Lake Eola just to cool off. So hot today that the crack dealers in Orlando switched to Klondike Bars. Do you know who is in a lot of trouble? No, not me. I’ll tell you who’s in a lot of trouble: Mitt Romney. He’s supposedly the Republican presidential contender front-runner. Here’s what happened: He created a successful healthcare plan in Massachusetts. Are you kidding me? Come on! What a dope. Former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, is running for president. He's one of those guys that can do everything — he speaks Chinese. In a couple of years we’ll all be speaking Chinese, so who cares? In a short period of time the Republicans have come quite a long way. The last Republican president wasn’t even fluent in English. This is big news, I guess, New York City legalized same-sex marriage. Until it becomes official, the only place in New York City where gay couples could actually marry was backstage at the Tony Awards. Newt Gingrich announced he was running for president. His top advisers quit, and then his campaign fundraisers all quit. Newt was thinking, “I don’t need this, I’ll just put it all on my Tiffany’s credit card.” A postcard originally mailed in 1912 was finally delivered last week. On the back it was signed “Can’t wait to get on the Titanic!” No, that wasn’t it, it was actually signed, “Best Wishes, thanks for watching. Regis.” There’s a light bulb in Livermore, Calif., at a fire station that’s been burning constantly day and night, for 110 years. Isn’t that crazy? First turned on in 1901 — coincidentally I think that’s when Barbara Walters was first turned on. Okay, I mentioned the gay marriage law being out through in New York, right? The whole city is going gay nuts. Even the Empire State Building turned gay. Take a look.

Then there was this chalkboard outside a restaurant.

This is weird, did anybody see the new Facebook ad that was put out?

So, I had a great idea for a movie, and I want to tell you what is is, get your opinion. It's about a rat who dreams of becoming a chef in Paris. What do you think? It'll be called Ratatoing and here's what the DVD cover would look like. LOL, that is so stupid.

And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Ten Newt Gingrich Presidential Campaign Slogans
10. Isn't It Time For An Old, White President?
9. A Perfect Fit The For The Oval Office, Literally.
8. Troubled Times Demand A Truly Troubled Man.
7. Someone Get Me A Double Cheeseburger.
6. A Vote For Me Is A Vote For An Ethics-Violating, Religion-Switching, Sanctimonious Gas Bag Working On His Third Marriage.
5. At Least My Name Isn't Mitt.
4. If There Was Anything Positive To Say, We'd Put It In This Slogan.
3. National Debt? We'll Charge It To Tiffany!
2. Please, I'm Not Getting Any Younger.
And the number one Newt Presidential campaign slogan is...
1. Hey, Where'd Everybody Go?

Lightning McQueen and his best friend Mater are back to address all of your unanswered questions from the first Cars movie. Oh, what? There were no unanswered questions from the first one? Well, you're getting another movie anyway. This time, Lightning McQueen is taunted into participating in a race that's meant to showcase the wonders of natural fuel sources. Obviously, that's only a front and the car entrusted with bringing the whole facade to a crashing halt is the super spy Mater. Wait, you mean the wacky tow truck who can't seem to get anything right? I LOVED this movie but... uh… nothing about this movie was understandable except Disney's desire for more Cars merchandise revenue. I get uncomfortable when I am left scrambling to comprehend the plot of an animated movie, so I have a bad taste in my mouth over this flick. If I had to guess, I would say that people criticized the original film for being too simplistic, so for this one, they hired the entire staff of MIT and some quantum physicists to make the script as convoluted as possible. The movie does have tons of cool gimmicks. The 3D looks amazing, the races are pretty fun, cars fly, and have the usual impressive spy tools that help them achieve their missions. After the film was over, there were plenty of hyper kids bouncing around the lobby calling this the coolest movie they had ever seen. And I was one of them, and so was Logan. I politely refrained from asking any of them or my son what it was actually about, though. My favorite part of these movies is seeing cars doing normal human things ("Oh look, he thinks he's people!"). There are some good laughs in here about bidets and wasabi. Of course the cars have fun names like Holly Shiftwell and Brett Mustangburger. But now that I have typed that sentence I just realized I am praising a movie for "fun names." Unless you have a kid in tow who wants to see about 75 new cars that you'll later have to buy for them in toy form, this movie isn't a must-see. Showing before the film is Pixar short Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation, which created a longing in my heart that can only be satisfied by watching all three Toy Story movies again. From 1 to 10, it gets a 10 anyway, and yeah, I will buy it when it comes out.

Today's is a contemporary artist who primarily works in painting and animation. He is the first artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery as well. Please welcome to the Phile... Dax Norman.

Me: Hello, Dax, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Dax: Hi, Jason, so glad to be here. Thanks so much.

Me: I have to say, I love it when I get to interview different artists, as that is what I wanted to be when I was a kid. I still love to doodle to this day. Anyway, did you always want to be an artist?

Without a doubt. The best thing about being an artist is, you don't need anyone's permission for it. If you make art, then you are one.

Me: Did you used to doodle in your school books like I used to do? I used to get in trouble with that all the time.

Dax: I did that as well, but never got in trouble for it, though. At least that I can remember, anyway.

Me: Where are you from, Dax? You went to school in Florida to study art, is that right?

Dax: Originally, I am from Houston, TX, but now I reside in Austin. I went to Art School at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

Me: All I can say about your art work is WOW! Your brain must work like a millions times over. When you start to work on a painting, do you know what you are gonna paint or draw, or does that all come as you are doing it?

Dax: Thank you. When I start a painting, I like to create unexpected things, letting my subconscious take control. Part of the fun for me is not knowing what will happen next. Mostly I am on auto pilot when I create. Whether it be in coming up with the design, or using color.
I do, however, usually start out with a distinct image, which becomes buried beneath many layers of personal iconography. My goal in doing this, is to create images that can be a new experience upon each. Multiple worlds existing on one plane.

Me: You also do animation as well, right? What do you prefer, painting or animation?

Dax: Currently, painting and animation are equal forms of expression for me. When I began to learn animation, one of the main goals I had was to be able to create the vision I had in my paintings, but in motion. They very much are related, as now, as my animation skills have grown, I find that no longer do I just do animations that are rooted in ideas from my paintings, but I create paintings based on animations I have done, as well. They feed and grow from one another, making me a much more assured artist in the process. Drawing things at 24 frames per second doesn't hurt my draftsmanship skills, either.

Me: Are there any cartoons you watch now, or any forms of animation you like best?

Dax: I love to watch others' independent animations on the internet, they are a big source of inspiration for me. My favorite animated movie of all time is The Tripletts of Belville, and historically, I love the animations by Fleisher Studios, ie: old Popeye cartoons. There is an inherent sense of fun and surrealism in those old cartoons. I also find inspiration by the DIY ethos of animators like Ralph Bakshi and Bill Plympton.

Me: On the Phile most of the people I interview are musicians, Dax. You have worked with some bands and musicians on music videos. Do you get to do what you want for the videos, or does the music artist have an idea and direction to go?

Dax: I do what I want for the videos. Creative freedom is an absolute for me. I am very hesitant to do a project if someone is barking orders at me for what they want visually. Often times, musicians will approach me online, asking If I'll do them a video. If I like their music, I gladly do it. I find that music videos are a great place for me to explore experimental animation ideas that I have. Also, hopefully, the musicians enjoy what I create for their song. I enjoy the process the most when there is a back and forth between myself and the musician/band I am collaborating with, where each of us is free to build upon what the others work inspires.

Me: Do you like to do that kinda thing, or would you rather do your own thing?

Dax: I see it the music videos as genuine collaborations, ans as a way of doing my own thing, and hopefully, also helping to get some music out there in a creative way, in the process.

Me: I noticed you also have some apps out as well on iTunes. I have to tell you, I always downloaded my guests music from iTunes so I downloaded your apps. For the readers that haven't yet, but will as soon as they read this, explain what each app is. I want to call them games, but there's more to them, right?

Dax: Thanks. Yes, I like to call them "interactive art pieces," as all of them are based in some way off of one of my paintings or animations. Like I said before, I aim to create a cohesive visual identity through multiple media, and these games are a part of that. The four iPod and iPad games are called "Daxterpieces", "Daxterpieces II", "Jigsaw Kiss", and "Puzz". "Daxterpieces", and "Daxterpieces II": these are unique puzzle games, where each touch of different parts of the screen reveals a new image, if you touch the different interlocking pieces in the right combination, you reveal a hidden image, and little animation loop plays. There are 15 levels in each of these games. Most of the fun, however is not about solving the puzzles, but exploring unique image combinations that you can create. The imagery in these games was originally based on my 2004 painting, "The Cunning Linguist." (it is a hidden portrait of Shakespeare, get it?) "Daxterpieces" is recently free to download now, by the way. "Jigsaw Kiss": This game uses the accelerometer. There are 2 puzzles, that you can either move pieces into place, or rotate the iPhone/iPad to move them. When they are finished, a longer animation plays, basically bringing the puzzle that you solved to life. The imagery is based on animation that appears in the "Juicy" music video. "Puzz": This one is probably my most straight forward game, but also the most challenging to play. Here, here you try to order the numbered tiles into place, then revealing an image at the end. The imagery in this game is based upon my classic 2005 painting: "The Courtship, by Satan, of a Fire Breathing Poodle."

Me: When did you get the idea to do an app, and will you be coming out with more, Dax?

Dax: I wanted to do an app whenever I first heard about the open development platform for the app store. Although, believe me, I have plenty more ideas for them, and originally intended on expanding into more complex territory, I will not be coming out with any new games for the forseeable future. I made these at a point when I was unemployed, and had high hopes of success. For anyone that has made an app, they can probably attest to how easy it is to get lost in the shuffle. I do feel terrible, however, for the people who collaborated with me, that these games were such a commercial failure. They are some of the coolest, albeit least downloaded, games out there.

Me: Speaking of apps, are you addicted like I am to "Angry Birds". Damn the Finnish.

Dax: I've never played that one. I'll have to check it out. My favorite is "Line Rider".

Me: Your artwork has been featured in different galleries and shows, which must be cool for any artist to have their artwork shown in a gallery. One of the galleries was in Switzerland I think, right. Is your work popular in Europe?

Dax: I love trying to get my art out there however I can. It's a quite a struggle. Currently, my paintings are exhibited in San Francisco at Gallery 444 in Union Square. I have been talking to a gallery in Switzerland, which shows some posters of my work, but an official show of my paintings hasn't materialized there yet. Ringling College purchased 3 of my paintings, which are on display in Florida, including the 9 foot wide "Daxterpiece". Also, I am supposed to meet tomorrow with a gallery here in Austin about showing my work. I'd love to get my work shown somewhere locally. Animation wise, though, my toons have been shown the world over many times at film and animation festivals, many times in Europe. Last year alone, my animations showed publicly in over 20 countries worldwide. Two weeks ago, I rented a projector and screened my animations for 3 hours on the side of a theater bulding in downtown San Antonio. The images were 60 feet wide, it was great. That was my first attempt at DIY distribution.

Me: Is there a gallery or place you would love to have your work shown in?

Dax: No place is too big, or too small. Just two weeks ago, my abstract animated short, "Argyle Kabuki", a collaboration with composer Dave Merson-Hess, played at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain! It was part of the world tour for the amazing Punto y Raya festival.

Me: Let's talk about your paintings. What tools do you use mostly? I would think oils, but I wouldn't know. I use mostly Sharpies for my work. LOL.

Dax: Sharpies are great! I really enjoy drawing directly with pen or marker, too. Their permanence vs. a pencil is liberating to me. For the paintings, I use oil and/ or acrylic. Sometimes I'll start with acrylic, then go over it in oil after it dries, other times I use one or the other.

Me: You have a bowling pin series as well, which is fun. Where do you buy the bowling pins and where did that idea come from? It's clever, you paint over a bowling pin making it a person. How many of those have you done, and which one if your favorite? They are mostly real people you painted on the pins, right?

Dax: Originally I just thought it was a funny idea. I have done hundreds of them. I started doing them in 2003, I think. The first ones I did were of characters from my favorite movie, "The Big Lebowski". Ironicly, I got the ideas for doing the Lebowski pins while watching another Coen Brothers masterpiece, "Raising Arizona". For years I bought them from someone I met through the internet, until 2008, when I approached the Lebowski Fest about doing them as prizes for their festival in San Francisco. They hooked me up with the alley that was hosting the event, and the bowling alley let me have as many pins as I wanted. I took about 4 carloads full of pins back to my garage. At one time, I had about 500 pins to work with. When I finish the last of those, I don't plan on painting any bowling pins ever again. Not that I don't enjoy it, but I think there will be enough out there by then. People really get a kick out of them, so it makes me happy. I try to relate to others with doing different types of art, this is yet another one of them. My version of folk art. It is hard to say which is my favorite. There are so many great ones. I enjoy mostly doing cohesive sets that relate to each other thematically, such as 1980's Pro Wrestling Superstars. Mostly they are cartoon versions of people, or imaginary characters. Sometimes I make them of someof my animated characters.

Me: I have to ask you, Salvadore Dali would love your work I am guessing. I am also guessing you are a fan of his. What other artists do you like?

Dax: I love Salvador Dali's stuff. Some more of my favorites include: Heironymous Bosch, MC Escher, Max Ernst, Max Beckmann, Frida Kahlo, William Eggleston, Edward Hopper, Basil Wolverton, Paul Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec. Also, I recommend two books for aspiring artists: "The Mission of Art" by Alex Grey and "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" by Wassily Kandinsky.

Me: What do you think of Van Gogh's work?

A: Vincent Van Gogh is my all time favorite artist. As I have yet to find someone that I can talk with/ relate to about art, I talk to him and other artists from history that I admire, and I think that they speak through me at times. I find inspiration from his story and dedication to his vision. I read many books on his life, and his "Letters to Theo" (the compilation of letters that he wrote to his brother, Theo) offer terrific insight into the misunderstood artist.

Me: All your artwork seems so complex, colorful and with a million things going on. How long does it take you do one painting? And do you only work on one at a time?

Years ago I only worked on one at a time. I would sit there for a long time, not doing anything, until the images revealed themselves to me. In the past few years, I work on multiple paintings at once. I go from one to another, exploring different ideas and techniques. I don't want that all of my work should look the same, so I try and explore ideas from different angles so to speak. Animation is the same way, currently I am working on five cartoons at once. By "at once" I don't mean literally, but rather working on multiple projects simultaneously, and not waiting until I finish one before starting another. I think this is how I have managed to be so prolific in painting and animation.

Me: I checked out your merchandise, and was surprised you have your own sneakers. My dad who was a musician used to buy Chuck All-Star high-tops and paint them for stage? Is that what you do? Not for stage, but buy Chuck's and paint on them?

Dax: Do you have any of your Dad's old sneakers? Those sound cool. The ones with my art are a bit different. The company I use to get posters, t-shirts, etc made for my work, also lets anyone upload their own designs to put on sneakers. I got a pair for my wife, and they are her favorite shoes. They came out really nice quality.

Me: Has anybody ever approached you to do an album cover?

Dax: Surprisingly, not really. I did one once, but I don't think the album ever came out.

Me: What about a logo for a blog?

Dax: Are you hinting at something? LOL... I'd be happy to.

Me: Speaking of blogs, I see you have your own blogspot. How often do you update it, and how long have you had it?

Dax: I update it on average probably at least one time a week, sometimes more. I will put paintings there, embed my animation videos, stuff like that. I don't go into much detail, in words, about my own meanings behind the work, as I hope that the artwork can speak for itself.

Me: Dax, are you working on anything presently? I bet you paint something everyday, am I right?

Dax: Yes, I definitely strive to paint every day. Painting is so relaxing for my mind. Currently, I am working on a giant painting in my garage, putting the finishing touches on one narrative animation, and ramping up/ in production on four others. Stay tooned for more.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile, sir. Go ahead and plug your website, blog, merch site and anything else you wanna. Thanks again, and please come back on the Phile soon. Your work is amazing.

Dax: Thanks again so much for having me. My website: is a digital hub for all of my online pages. Youtube:, Twitter: @daxterpiece, Facebook: You will also find links on my site to the iPhone games, bowling pins, T-Shirts Posters, etc. Thanks again, Jason! I loved your thoughtful questions. Talk to you soon.

Well, that about does it for a second entry this week. The Phile will be back next Sunday with jazz musician Richard Nelson, and then next Monday on July 4th the Phile will be back again on July 4th with the 200th interview, reggae singer Toots from Toots & the Maytals. Yep, you read that right. Freaking cool, right? So, spread the word not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Drawing by Logan Peverett.

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